History of Weaving: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Suzanne Rose

Suzanne has taught all levels PK-graduate school and has a PhD in Instructional Systems Design. She currently teachers literacy courses to preservice and inservice teachers.

Have you ever thought about how the cloth for your pants or shirt was made, or how a basket or rug was created? In this lesson, you'll learn about how weaving, one of the oldest art forms on Earth, changed from prehistoric times to the present.

Weaving: an Ancient Process

Did you know that one of the processes used to make cloth and clothing is thousands of years old? When you're weaving cloth, you use two sets of threads, called the warp and the weft. The warp threads run vertically, or up-and-down, and the weft threads run horizontally, or from side-to-side. To weave, you move the weft threads over and under the warp threads, which creates fabric, like that used to make clothing. Weaving is also used to create baskets, mats, and other items from materials such as willow branches, twigs, and grasses.

History of Weaving

Prehistoric Weaving

Humans used weaving to create baskets long before they used the process to make cloth. Early baskets were probably made by weaving grasses and plant materials around gourds to give them a useful shape.

Baskets can be created by weaving.

28,000-20,000 B.C.

Early humans used fibers from plants to make the first threads. The oldest baskets that have been found are from about 27,000 B.C. in Europe. Woven plant fibers were also used to create shoes, hats, mats, shelters, and many other items that made the lives of early humans easier.

20,000 B.C.

Stone carvings from about 20,000 B.C. include images of baskets. However, no baskets from that time period have ever been discovered.

8000-6000 B.C.

At first, people used lengths of string to weave. They would tie the ends of the string to a belt and then twist them together, similar to the way that people still braid hair today. Later on, people developed looms: wooden frames that held the threads so that many, rather than a few, could be woven together.

A loom is used to weave cloth.

Because thread and cloth can be easily destroyed, especially when buried in the ground, scientists have found next to no clothing from this time. So how do we know people knew how to weave cloth? Archaeologists dug up their tools, including needles, looms, shuttles, and spindles made from animal bones, clay, and stone. In addition to these tools, they also found clay and stone figurines of people wearing clothing from this time period.

1200 B.C.-1000 A.D.

During the Iron Age, people began making weaving tools from iron. Surviving materials have shown that by this time, humans had learned how to dye threads so that the cloth they made had at least two colors!

Weaving and the Industrial Revolution


In 1733, John Kay invented the flying shuttle, which made weaving more mechanical. During the Industrial Revolution, machines like power looms were also invented, forever changing the weaving process.

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